From Housed to Homeless – and Back!

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words. To which I’d add: stories are how we make sense of the world. Here at Human Solutions, we have the honor of being a partner to many people’s stories as they seek our help along their way.

When I recently met Jesse and Tanya and their three wonderful children (ages 2, 6 & 14) at Lilac Meadows, our new emergency shelter for families in SE Portland, I was struck by both the speed and magnitude of their spiral into poverty and homelessness and by their hard work to put it all back together. You’ve probably seen this, too – how quickly folks are being pulled from calm to crisis by the forces causing homelessness at record rates in our community. And like us, I bet you want a solution so all families in our community have a place to call home and a real chance to thrive.

From Housed To Homeless In 6 Months

While each family we work with is unique, we see some trends: people are working hard to survive and overcome poverty and homelessness, facing systemic barriers at every turn – racism, misogyny, low wages, no way to save, and high childcare costs, among others. Jesse and Tanya’s experience going from a stable home and job to unhoused with nothing took a mere six months, precipitated by a layoff. Tragically, when Jesse lost his job the family lost their housing, too, because their landlord was also Jesse’s employer. Without income, they couldn’t afford their car payments, so those are gone, too, along with the money they had invested in them.

One thing about poverty in America is that once that starter event happens – an unexpected medical (or other) bill, a rent increase or a high-needs child – it’s like the dam is broken and a flood of additional blows push people further from stability. But we can rebuild the dams and push back on the floodwaters.

With your continued help, families like Tanya and Jesse’s can have what everyone in our community deserves: a place to call home that they love and can afford.

An Important Partner

While Jesse, Tanya and the kids are living at Lilac Meadows, our on-site shelter team supports them by meeting them where they are and working forward from there. All 39 resident families at Lilac Meadows have a warm and dry place to sleep and store their belongings, three meals a day, one-on-one rehousing support, and, importantly, empathy and encouragement. With their immediate needs met, families can focus on their futures. Speaking of which, Jesse is already back at work in a new job!

Something Jesse and Tanya really love at Human Solutions is the orga- nized field trips we make available for the kids – OMSI, the pumpkin patch, the Children’s Museum and more!

As Jesse told me, their littles wake up and ask to go right to the shelter office so they can hang out with staff, whom they adore. As we like to say at Human Solutions: this is what community looks like.

Can you help families like Jesse and Tanya’s have the housing and economic security they are working so hard for? Your gift will make a world of difference for Jesse, Tanya, and the kids – and for Human Solutions’ work to ensure that everyone in our community has a safe and stable place to call home.

Solutions Now And For The Future

Our staff does a great job working with families like Jesse and Tanya’s to overcome the challenges our economic and housing systems throw in their way. But too many of our neighbors are facing the same barriers. At Human Solutions, we believe that these systems must work better, so fewer families endure the trauma and lasting impacts of poverty and homelessness – and more have a real opportunity to thrive. To that end, we’re not just helping people find housing today – we’re also working for a more just society tomorrow.

Together We Are The Solution

For the sake of Jesse and Tanya and the many unhoused families across our area who need help right now (there are hundreds on waitlists for shelter), I invite you to be part of the solution by making a generous gift this season. Together we can help our community today and work to address the root causes of poverty and homelessness to prevent more crises tomorrow. We know there’s a better way, and we’re working every day to get there.

With gratitude,



Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – BE PART OF THE SOLUTION! Thank you for renewing your support – it does a world of good. And our community needs us right now!

Give here today:

Our kids adore the staff here at Lilac Meadows. They were comfortable from the 1st day we arrived. When our kids are happy, we’re more able to focus on the future.

-Jesse B, shelter resident and father of 3

Toy drive, holiday volunteering, advice for cold nights

What an amazing streak of gorgeous fall weather we are fortunate to have. Makes raking all those leaves more enjoyable! That said, we are on the cusp of chillier nights when sleeping outside will be even harder than usual.

We appreciate and are glad to share advice for all of us during the cold weather from, our local social service coordinator: Community members are asked to be vigilant watching out for their neighbors in need. Anyone who has concerns about someone they observe who appears to be unprepared for the cold weather and does not seem to be capable of caring for themselves should call Police Non-Emergency, 503-823-3333, and request a “welfare check.” If it appears that the person’s situation is mental health-related, the Mental Health Crisis Line can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at 503-988-4888. If the situation appears to present an imminent risk to the person’s health or safety, dial 911. Every one of us can help out in these situations, and with accurate information we are better able to step up and do the right thing. Human Solutions supports the most compassionate response to people on the street and has endorsed Portland Street Response, a developing program spearheaded by Street Roots.

In other news, the team at Human Solutions has been busy as ever this fall. I’m sharing some highlights here that I think may interest you.

Your Help Needed! ‘Tis the Season for Human Solutions’ Holiday Toy Drive!

This event is a joyful tradition at Human Solutions! Every year, we partner with volunteers and organizations across our community to collect gifts for kids who need them and invite their parents to “shop” (for free, of course!) for the holidays. Shoppers are families with low/no incomes who live in our affordable housing communities or are participating in our programs. You can help by hosting a collection bin in your community, church or office space, delivering gifts to our two office locations (12350 SE Powell Blvd. and 124 NE 181st Ave.), shopping for gifts on our Amazon Wish List (they send things right to us!), volunteering, or sponsoring the event. Details and volunteer sign-ups are on our web page. Let’s put a little shine in the holidays, shall we?!?

2nd Community Conversation on Homelessness | December in the Pearl

We had such a strong turnout this summer for our first Community Conversation on Homelessness that we’re doing it again! This time in the Pearl District in downtown Portland. Join us – you can RSVP here.

Event Details:

  • Who: Anyone interested in understanding and solving homelessness in our community.
  • Where: CENTRL Office Pearl – 1355 NW Everett Street, Portland, OR 97209 (here’s a map)
  • When: Tuesday, December 3rd from 5:30 to 7:30 PM (program begins at 6:00 PM, settle in and grab food from 5:30-6:00).
  • Food/Drink: Light snacks and beverages available – or BYO if you prefer!

Questions? Contact Lisa Frack, Human Solutions: 503.548.0282 or For CENTRL Office, contact Madeline at

Help Out by Cooking & Serving Meals in our Emergency Shelters

Human Solutions operates two emergency shelters for people who are unhoused: one for families with dependent children and another for women (all who identify). Approximately 230 people (80 of them children) stay with us every night. Of course we provide meals (three per day for every shelter resident, which adds up to about 250,000 meals a year!)

That’s where you come in! Our part-time kitchen manager, Chris, cooks a lot, but we depend on volunteers in the community to supplement her meals (like those pictured here who cooked and served lunch for 90 women few weeks back). Is that you? It is a joyful way to be a contributing member of our community. Our shelter volunteer and donations coordinator, Christina, awaits you: or 503.278.1637. ‘Tis the season to feed and break bread with others, right? If you’ve been thinking, “I want to do something, but I don’t quite know what,” get in touch with Christina – she’s friendly and can get you all set up! #thisiswhatcommunitylookslike

New Skills2Work Program

The group you see here are proud graduates of Skills2Work, a new program we created to support people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness as they prepare to re-enter the job market. While we have long worked with folks with low/no incomes to increase their skills and find career-track employment, this program fills a gap by offering training and support for those with the most barriers to work so they can recover confidence, skills and self-awareness on the road to potential employment and a brighter future. Our incredible employment team worked to craft this unique series specifically for a cohort of women – including many who reside in our Gresham Women’s Shelter. After six weeks of inspiring hard work, the cohort of 13 graduates received their diplomas at an emotional ceremony. It was a morning filled with pride, accomplishment, tears, hugs and love – one of the most memorable celebrations I have attended in my 25 years of doing this work. Take a look at this recent article in the Gresham Outlook about this program.

Mia Birdsong Was So Inspiring!

We are still on cloud nine after hosting the incredible Mia Birdsong (pictured here with Human Solutions ED Andy Miller and our Board VP Jo Ann Hardesty) at APANO’s new space in SE PDX in October (we recorded her terrific presentation so you can watch it right here). Mia raises questions so relevant to our times, making clear that we can’t have a community that works for everyone if we don’t tackle head-on the root causes of inequity that create so much hardship today. She clearly called out structural racism, misogyny, classism, and our unique brand of aggressive capitalism that puts profits ahead of humanity. As Mia told us that night and shared again with our staff on Friday morning (lucky us!), our job is to put ALL the people into “We the People,” creating truth from fiction.

To keep the conversation going, we are sharing a few resources:

At Human Solutions we are working towards housing and economic security for all – and Mia’s approach really resonates with us. Hope to see you at another event soon!

Good listen about East Portland, our service area

This short segment on OPB shares historical background and current issues in East Portland through the lens of an artist working with the community. We’ve been here 31 years and even we learned something new! Enjoy.

“Portland artist Sabina Haque began exploring the history of Portland east of 82nd Avenue for an art project two years ago. Since then, she’s interviewed various residents about their history in East Portland and their hopes for its future. She joins us to talk about her project and what she hopes to do next.”

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

On October 22nd Human Solutions staff participated in the City of Gresham’s annual candlelight vigil to raise awareness, support survivors and remember those we’ve lost. We know all too well from our day-to-day work that domestic violence is a 365-day-a-year issue. Nearly 70% of the residents at our Gresham Women’s Shelter report being survivors of domestic violence; it is a major contributor to homelessness for women. This powerful event is spearheaded by Rep. Carla Piluso, former Gresham Police Chief and current Human Solutions board secretary. We were glad to show our support this night and also appreciate the ongoing work of the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence.

Thanks, as always, for your interest in our community – it needs us right now.





Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – Inspired by what we’re doing? Please consider a donation to keep us going strong – we’re open 24/7 right here: (thank you!)

Give Joyfully through the Toy Drive

The Human Solutions’ Annual Toy Drive & Holiday Store Need Your Help Again This Year!

You may well be eating Halloween candy as you read this (we are!), but we’re also thinking ahead to our 2019 Toy Drive & Holiday Store for the low-income families we work with, a joyful holiday tradition since 2004. Just call us holiday multi-taskers!

Our annual Holiday Store is a unique event for low-income families because we invite parents in our programs to visit our toy “store” and select gifts they know their kids will want. In other words, they choose gifts for their kids; something people in poverty get to do far too seldom. 

Will you help us make this event a success? With the help of our community – that’s you! – we can reach more low-income kids and families this year than ever before. 

Here’s how you can help:

Collect & Donate Toys.

We are asking you – by yourself or together with your favorite group (church, company, block, knitting circle, sports team, book club, etc…) for help collecting gifts! Deliver donated items, coordinate a gift drive or host a donation bin in your space. Our biggest needs are for toys and games for kids ages 2 to 18. We request that all donations be new and unwrapped. You’ll find our Wish List here (it doubles as a flyer for your toy collection bin or to encourage friends and family to participate!). Last year we reached 540 kids, thanks to the community support of donors like you! This year, we’re hoping to grow our impact to 600 kids – but we can’t do it without your help.

Volunteer at the Holiday Store.

The truth is we couldn’t make this all happen without volunteers! Folks are needed to set up and clean up, wrap gifts, bake cookies & keep the hot chocolate flowing, and assist shoppers who want a hand. This year’s store takes place again at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church at NE 174th & Glisan and will be open from Thursday, Dec. 19th through Saturday, Dec. 21st. Find dates and jobs that work for you – then sign up here.

Sponsor the Event.

Consider becoming a Toy Drive Sponsor to make it all possible. Options range from $250 to $5,000 – details right here

Ready to jump in or have a question? Call 503.548.0213 or email the team. Our website is chock full of details, too.

Thanks in advance for bringing holiday cheer to families & kids – it’s a joy for givers and receivers alike!





Lisa, Andie & the entire Human Solutions Toy Drive Team




Update | Fall 2019

I am so proud of all the great work our team is doing at Human Solutions that I just had to share three recent highlights with you. As someone who has supported our work in the community (thank you!), I hope you will be as energized by our progress and impact as I am.

Delivering More Affordable Housing

Over the next two to three years, we will bring 168 new apartments to East Portland, where the housing crisis is increasingly acute. Two big pieces of news to share:

Golden shovels to break ground this September. Big moment with terrific partners!

  1. We broke ground in September on our most ambitious project yet: 75 new apartments with ground-floor retail and an anchor office/service center for Human Solutions, right next to Discovery Park in East Portland’s Gateway neighborhood. We look forward to moving into our new home 18 months from now, together with 75 families who will move into theirs. We sure hope you’ll join us for the grand opening! The site is at 106th & NE Halsey – you’ll see the cranes when you drive by.
  2. We are redeveloping our former family shelter site into 93 permanently affordable homes for families. Human Solutions was awarded $13.9 million from the City of Portland’s 2016 Affordable Housing Bond (thank you, voters!) to move this exciting project forward. We’re thrilled that 16 of the apartments will provide “permanent supportive housing” for families experiencing chronic homelessness. What makes these units different is the high level of supportive services available to families to end their ongoing struggle with homelessness. Permanent supportive housing is a national best-practice with a proven track record creating sustainable homes for those who have been unhoused for years. Human Solutions has been an Oregon leader in developing and providing this type of housing for families, and we are thrilled to expand options in East Portland for families who have been unhoused for too long.

Our New Family Shelter Is Open

Over the last few months, our hard-working shelter team began welcoming families to Lilac Meadows, our new emergency shelter for families. We are partnering with Multnomah County to operate this new site, a former motel that allows families the privacy and normalcy of family life with the on-site support they need to find stable housing. Our terrific team works one-on-one with every resident family to transition from homelessness to housing. With homelessness in our region continuing to grow and a hundreds-long waitlist for emergency shelter, we are proud to be part of the solution, providing a safe place to live and rapid rehousing support for 39 families – including about 80 kids – every night. Our track record is strong, too: last year 85% of the families who moved into housing from our shelter remained housed for at least one year. If you want to help out (we hope you do!), our shelter volunteer & donations coordinator, Christina, would love to hear from you: or 503.278.1637.

New Employment Programming

Proud Skills2Work graduates holding their certificates in our Gresham Women’s Shelter.

The group you see here are proud graduates of Skills2Work, a new program we created to support people experiencing housing insecurity and homelessness as they prepare to re-enter the job market. While we have long worked with low/no income folks to help them increase their skills and find career-track employment, this program fills a gap by offering training and support for those with the most barriers to work so they can recover confidence, skills and self-awareness on the road to potential employment and a brighter future. Our incredible Employment Team worked to craft this unique series specifically for a cohort of women – including many who reside in our Gresham Women’s Shelter. After many weeks of inspiring hard work, the cohort of 13 graduates received their diplomas at an emotional ceremony. It was a morning filled with pride, accomplishment, tears, hugs and love – one of the most memorable celebrations I have attended in my 25 years of doing this work. I’ve enclosed a recent article in the Gresham Outlook about this program – take a look!

Community Conversation on Homelessness

Marci Cartagena, Emergency Services Director, answers an audience question.

This summer we hosted a conversation about homelessness and enjoyed dialoging with the community about what’s happening in our city and what we are doing to help solve it. About 50 folks joined us at a coffee shop in the Mt. Tabor neighborhood, where we had a robust, productive conversation that moved us all toward greater understanding of homelessness and more empathy for the people trying to survive it. Folks had the chance to talk with our experts and each other about their personal beliefs about our economy, our housing markets, and how to help those left out of the prosperity we are seeing in Oregon. Thank to locally-owned office sharing company CENTRL Office for hosting another Community Conversation at their Pearl location on Tuesday, December 3rd from 5:30-7:30 PM – RSVP here. If you’d like us to bring this kind of dialog to your community, please reach out to our communications director Lisa at or 503.548.0282.

Thank you, as always, for caring about our community and Human Solutions’ role in making it work for everyone. I am so glad that you are part of the Human Solutions family.




Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – If you are inspired by our accomplishments, we’re open for gifts 24/7 right here (thank you!):

Trauma Recovery Education Workshops

BIG News! We broke ground on our most ambitious project yet!

On Friday, September 20th we celebrated something BIG here at Human Solutions: we broke ground to build 75 units of rental housing and a new anchor office for our team alongside Portland’s newest greenspace – Discovery Park in East Portland’s Gateway neighborhood. This new development will provide homes for those in need, a place for local businesses to thrive and a new home for Human Solutions. We can’t wait to invite you to the Grand Opening in about 18 months!

I encourage you to check out the project details on our web site along with some of the architectural renderings. That way you’ll be able to envision the transformation of this empty lot where we will open this new community in Spring 2021. We hope you think it’s as beautiful as we do!

Project partners helped us break ground. Thanks to LMC Construction, our contractor, for the gold shovels!

In addition to adding 75 apartments affordable to a range of incomes, this new space will include an anchor office and service center for Human Solutions. We are thrilled to be building a home of our own in East Portland, where we have been part of the community for more than 30 years. We have outgrown our current leased space, which has long needed an upgrade. We’re ready for our amazing team and the people who seek our support to feel the warmth and sense of value a beautiful space conveys.

Project partners helped us break ground. Thanks to LMC Construction, our contractor, for the gold shovels!

We could not have put this project together without a host of incredible partners – some experts, others investors (and some both!). Our development team: Gerding Edlen, Holst Architecture and LMC Construction. Our investors: JP Morgan Chase, The Collins Foundation, Dudley Ventures, US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Low Income Investment Fund, Metro, Meyer Memorial Trust, Multnomah County, On Semiconductor, Oregon Housing & Community Services, Portland Housing Bureau, PNC Bank, and (last but definitely not least!) Prosper Portland.

Among the many wonderful speakers at the groundbreaking celebration one really stood out. Laurie Palmer is not just an eloquent speaker (though she is definitely that). She is an incredible woman with a story to tell who happens to live in another housing community that Human Solutions developed and owns. Her message is perhaps the most important of all, because she represents the reason we do this work: to create a community where everyone can experience the dignity of a well-built, permanent home that they can afford. Our work at Human Solutions helps people overcome the barriers they face in our inequitable economic and social systems. Laurie sought Human Solutions’ help to bust through those barriers, but make no mistake: she is a survivor who got herself where she is today. We’re grateful that Laurie is using her voice to call for a better way. We invite you to take a few minutes (two and seven seconds, to be exact!) to hear her powerful and inspiring message.

Thank you for celebrating with us as we work to build a community that works for everyone,





Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – Want to be part of the solution? We never turn down an offer of support – give here today. It’ll feel good!

A Conversation With Mia Birdsong

We’re building more housing & other news

I hope you are staying dry in September’s unseasonably wet weather! I just closed down my garden for the season – including harvesting my first ever homegrown acorn squash and making two big batches of Mama Miller’s Tomato Bolognese! As we turn to fall here at Human Solutions, we have some very exciting news to share. Thanks for taking a few moments out of your day to connect with our work – we’re always grateful that you are a part of it.


Human Solutions is thrilled to have received a competitive award of $13.9 million in funding from the City of Portland’s Housing Bond to redevelop the site of our former Family Center at SE 161st & Stark. When we purchased the building and site in 2015, our long-term goal was to build affordable apartments for families struggling to make ends meet amidst rapidly rising rents in East County. We are already in pre-development to make that dream come true.

A key component of our vision for this site is a partnership with LifeWorks NW, a very experienced behavioral health provider that will provide onsite services for residents. The combination of deeply affordable housing and relevant support services will help people transition out of homelessness. This kind of permanent supportive housing is a nationally-recognized model that has been proven to end chronic homelessness. Pictured here at the official announcement of these exciting awards in Portland City Hall is our team, along with LifeWorks NW Executive Director Mary Monnat. We will of course share details with you as this project progresses. The Oregonian covered the exciting news here.


We’re very excited about our fall speaker event. Register now to join us on October 17th for new perspectives on how we think about and respond to poverty in our community. Mia Birdsong gave a TED Talk on poverty in 2015 that went viral. We’re bringing her to Portland to have a critical community conversation about the way we see poverty in our culture – and why it matters. This is an opportunity to open our minds, explore our biases, and learn to see our community in powerful new ways. Plus: it’s hosted and there’s food! What are you waiting for!?! Register here. Spread the word on Facebook here.


This summer our shelter team (pictured here) worked incredibly hard to ready a new space for families experiencing homelessness. Since opening the doors at Lilac Meadows, we have been gradually ramping up to full capacity, when we will have 40 families in residence. We love our new space because it allows families the privacy of a motel room but the community and one-on-one support it takes to find stable housing and begin to recover from the trauma of homelessness. Many of our shelter staff have experienced homelessness themselves, which is so important to our ability to connect with and support residents in crisis. Their extra effort to make our new location shine really shows. Thanks, team! We’re proud of all they have accomplished.


Portland State University recently created a Homelessness Research & Action Collaborative that has been adding a lot of good information and thinking to the issue, for which we are grateful. Shortly after our local Joint Office of Homeless Services released our local 2019 Point-In-Time count, this new Collaborative released a more comprehensive data set and analysis with some recommendations for a path forward, including exciting new potential funding tools that could put real solutions within reach. Check it out if you’re curious about the scope of the problem and some ideas for solutions; there’s also a quick article summarizing key points.


While redlining is no longer legal (thank you, Fair Housing Act), its impacts are very visible in how our cities remain racially segregated. Redlining is widely credited with creating the significant wealth gap between Blacks and Whites in the United States. You’ve heard of compound interest; we can think of redlining as compound racism that has severely restricted access to wealth building opportunities (like homeownership) over time, leading to the extreme racial wealth gaps we see and experience today.

This article from The Root, Redlining: The Origin Story of Institutional Racism, explains the historical practice and present-day implications for African Americans. As its author writes, “Redlining was outlawed in 1968 by the Fair Housing Act, but it still affects almost every economic aspect of black communities to this day.” And to bring it closer to home, check out the Fair Housing Council of Oregon’s information and tours about racial discrimination in housing (highlighted here in Forbes magazine).


In early 2019, the Oregon State Legislature passed Senate Bill 608 to better protect tenants from displacement. The new law (effective since 2/19) places an annual cap on rent increases statewide and expands Portland’s protections against no-cause evictions to the entire state. Creating a law is just the first step, though; getting the word out is essential and takes effort. Our terrific partners at the Oregon Housing Alliance have helpful information on their web site, plus we really like this short video in English and Spanish that boils it down well.


We have two commercial spaces for rent in the heart of Rockwood on the ground floor of our Rockwood Multi-Service Center   

  1. A fully functional commercial kitchen with appliances included and office space in approximately 1,050 square feet.
  2. Fully outfitted childcare facility with approximately 4,250 square feet already built out to spec for children ages 3-5, with three classrooms, an enclosed outdoor play space, office space and a secure door to the rest of the building.

Both spaces are available now. Please call Mike Malone (503) 972-8609 or email for more information. Other current tenants in the Rockwood MSC are social service providers: Human Solutions Inc., Wallace Medical Concern and Metropolitan Family Services.




Andy Miller, Executive Director

PS – Inspired by what we’re doing? We will gratefully accept your online donation here: (thank you!!)